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Voices Social innovation

VideoContest: Calling All Social Innovators

Denielle SachsMcKinsey & Company

Denielle Sachs is director of social impact for McKinsey & Company. She joined the firm in 2008 to lead the overall strategic design and implementation of its social impact positioning and knowledge portfolio, including in education, health, economic development, and social innovation.

Ryan AdamsMcKinsey & Company

Ryan Adams is a communications associate in the Social Sector Office at McKinsey & Company.

Converting rice husks into cheap and clean energy. using bowties to catalyze philanthropy. reinventing the (water) wheel.

These were some of the ideas that emerged in McKinsey’s first-ever social innovation video contest, in which we asked organizations to present one-minute movies of their work. Our goal was to showcase the creativity, passion and determination that are at play, every day, in countries around the world . We think these ideas can inspire new ways of thinking, and new avenues for action.

We attracted close to 150 videos from 30 countries. The entries address nearly every societal challenge, in every corner of need, from an organization in India that’s converting sewage to energy to Project Pressure, a UK organization that’s documenting climate change by creating a photographic  archive of the world’s receding glaciers.

Several themes emerged, but one was unmistakable: more than a quarter of the projects depicted in the videos exploited the growing power of social media and mobile technology. Organizations around the world are using these emerging platforms to address complex problems in surprising new ways. Kisan Raja, an organization in India, developed a device that allows farmers to activate their irrigation systems via mobile phone. CrowdPesa, based in Kenya, is a mobile mapping tool that connects people with nearby financial services. In South Africa, the Praekelt Foundation is addressing the massive HIV/AIDS pandemic with digital communities that create a safe space for young people to talk about topics affecting their daily lives, from love and sex, to gender and cultural issues.  Other innovators are developing new forms of online “matchmaking.” Sponsor Change, for example, connects debt-laden University students in the U.S. to global volunteer opportunities that help them pay off tuition loans.

Choosing winners from such an impressive group was no small task, but in just ten days of balloting, viewers cast nearly 5,000 votes and posted more than 4,000 tweets.  For voters, four videos stood out from the rest. Three were chosen from the 11 finalists and a “fan favorite” was selected from the complete line-up.  The winning organizations are a reminder of the power of new ideas, how moving beyond the received wisdom and ways of problem solving can push us all to conceive of surprising new solutions to age old problems.

Learn more about our winners on the pages that follow. To watch these inspiring videos, please visit the contest page at

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